Tag Archives: match-fixing

IPL-6 was Fun

Multiple sources inform me that the IPL season is now over. I wasn’t sure until I saw Indian cricketers play Pakistan last night under the watchful eyes of His Majesty His Highness His Holyness Sir Lord Lalit Modi.

Jokes aside, I loved this IPL season even though I didn’t get to watch much of it. Rather, I didn’t want to watch any of it. And I am trying to erase all evidences of exclaiming “Fixed” or “I jinxed it” whenever something fishy seemed to have happened on during the IPL. You know, I don’t want to go to Tihar for 6 days and then left out and wait for judgment on it till 2017.

Oh, I said ‘jokes aside’? I lied. IPL is a joke. You must be plugging your ears and screaming *la la la la la la la* if you think otherwise. Even Lalit Modi thinks it is a joke. And he is the original puppeteer of the Indian Cric…I mean…Premier League.

I love how the insiders of the IPL work. They want in when there is something in for them. Like, Rajiv Shukla came in when they (I believe “they” means BCCI) ousted Lalit Modi. In an age where we debate the importance of DRS in a cricket game, I am not even sure Rajiv Shukla can tell a right handed batsman from a left handed one. If you need a non-cricketing fellow at the top of IPL to make ridiculous statements, why not appoint someone like Shreya Ghoshal? At least those ridiculous statements will sound sweet. Anyway, let us assume Rajiv Shukla, or his son, or his son-in-law has (vested) interests in the game. Because Rajiv doesn’t. I mean, who goes on to say that he is happy for India’s loss in England because now cricket can grow in England, who have been losing in cricket and football for the past decade?

IPL had a spot fixing scandal this year. I think this will bring an end to the IPL………………………………………….rulebook of allowing towels to the game. IPL players can’t even spot-fix properly. One of the involved players forgot to signal the over the deal was made for. So, IPL is imperfect even in the imperfect scenario.

*la la la la la la la*

IPL team owners have been involved in betting. How the CSK owner enthusiast lost more than Rs 1 crore by betting on his own team is beyond me. I think he should be punished by the long arms of bookies first, and then by the law. The RR owner also placed bets which his wife denies, he accepts, his wife blames somebody else for misusing their contact, he accepts, his wife cries foul, he accepts….maybe a few days later, his wife will also accept. Not all actors get their dialogues right in the first take.

As soon as the first breakthrough was made in the spot-fixing case, everybody from everywhere fired bullets – “XYZ should resign.” Most of the substitutions for “XYZ” were BCCI Chief, India Cements (owner of CSK) big man, the non-T20 goer, non IPL follower, Mr. N. Srinivasan. IPL big fellows are really interesting. They get selected, or elected, or sit on occupied seats themselves so that they do nothing much during the office hours and later when they are supposed to do something in a situation of crisis, they bark at others to resign, while still not doing anything about it.

I think the floor is weak and all the chairs at the IPL office are broken. Nobody wants to stand up to the situation. Nobody wants to put himself above everyone else and say “We have a situation here. Let’s solve it before it becomes a problem.” Their attitude is more like, “Dude, the coffee machine is not working again? You $%!^*$^%$!*^. Resign right away.” And then after the old fellow steps down aside, a new fellow takes up the post with no responsibility of what has happened and no ownership of the events that has dented the credibility (whaaa?) of the league. I still don’t know why Rajiv Shukla resigned. I mean, I still don’t know why he was made the IPL Commissioner in the first pace. I need at least one answer. I can conjure a blogpost for the other answer.

You know the league is absolutely funny when you are laughed at by the man who was ousted from the same league for corruption, who banned other leagues so his can be the sole runner, who hid himself in the UK where he got into more trouble by pulling another cricketer to fight in a court on match fixing charges and then lost the case and then got sued by the cricketer, which of course he claims he can’t pay because he  got bankrupt, which he tweets from his PC from a home in London where he is staying on an expired Visa while being the President and Director of a business group. Mr Lalit Modi is awesome in some ways.

I know. The IPL is saved. Jagmohan Dalmia will save it.

Phew.

-Bagrat

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Whose resource is it anyway?

The game I love is being slowly and systematically destroyed in India and I need the key destroyers — the BCCI, in my view — to answer one simple question: Whose resource is it anyway?

Events in the last few weeks, in particular, have only highlighted the rot that set in many years ago. Now, dark clouds of extreme doubt and utter cynicism hang over everything to do with cricket and the BCCI.

Slowly. Relentlessly. Definitely.

If this sounds like doomsday, it probably is. Siddhartha Vaidyanathan (sidvee) writes about it. Harsha Bhogle writes about it. Prem Panicker writes about it.

Players have been trapped for spot fixing IPL matches. A Bollywood actor is being questioned. Several bookies have been arrested. An IPL team CEO is also being questioned for apparent questionable links. The ICC has pulled out one of its elite umpires from standing in the Champions Trophy. We do not know why, but in this climate of extreme cynicism, we have to assume the very worst; that the net has dragged in even a former ICC ‘Umpire of the Year’.

The IPL looks utterly fixed at the moment, although another expletive starting with the letter F and ending with the letter D would seem rather appropriate too.

Let me declare my cards: I do not like the IPL now. In fact, I detest almost everything it stands for.

I watched the IPL with much interest in its first season, and I loved it. I was a fan of this novel format because it was franchise cricket that brought together the best players from the world for a cricket carnival that  lasted a few weeks. It propelled hitherto unknown players onto an international stage. It gave an opportunity for young Indian players to rub shoulders with some of the greats of the game. And it provided financial security to a very large set of players. This was exactly what Indian cricket needed, I thought. I even devoted some of my own research time to develop a better algorithm for scheduling the IPL (a publication on this is currently under review).

Moreover, much like Suhrith Parthasarathy, I wasn’t about to dismiss what seemed like an exciting concept without giving it a fair go. I genuinely believed that we would see new technical expertise being developed as a result of this craze. And there are people who will say that the IPL in particular — and the T20 format, in general — has indeed contributed to cricket in a technical sense. I was drawn immediately to the novelty of the IPL concept: a heady cocktail of entertainment and cricket that showcased Indian talent on the world stage in a genuinely exciting manner. I also enjoyed the stroke making as much as I did, the routine public floggings that bowlers received.

Then, as with many things in life, the novelty wore off. Unlike many things in life though, what I noticed was that apart from greed, there was a distinct lack of permanence or a cogent narrative to the IPL that I could see. After every ugly season, I only remembered the stench. I realized that the IPL was nothing but an instrument that fueled the insane greed of a few people; such an instrument only has hands and eyes on the cash-till. It operated in a totalitarian regime which ensured that people were either in or marginalized as they fed what appeared to be an insatiable greed. Everything else, other than the cash-till was made insignificant.

Goose. Golden Egg. Rinse. Repeat. 

Such a greed machine always gets things very very wrong. I have nothing against commerce. But when commercial greed takes utter precedence over values and permanence that a sport ought to strive for, then everyone loses: the game, the administrators, the players and the fans. In the IPL, over time, cricket became almost secondary. In a relentless pursuit of TRPs, the TV station which had paid the BCCI a lot of money for rights to broadcast IPL games  had no choice but to adapt to stay afloat. Cricket took a back seat. We got an extremely noisy television studio where the more loud one got, the better it was. We had dancing girls in the studio. Soon, short skirts, noodle straps and Bollywood glitterati were thrust into our faces at every opportunity. The after-match parties were talked about, advertised and sold.  All of these defined the show more than the cricket on view.

Unsurprisingly, everything started to go pear shaped. With each passing episode, a lecherous greed seemed to grip the IPL. More games, more teams, more timeouts, more advertisement revenues, more players, more parties, more betting, more muscle flexing, more dancing girls, more sponsors on every inch of space, more money being siphoned off, more greed, more conflicts of interest, more being shoved under the carpet, more carpets being procured, more band-aids to cover up gaping holes.

More, more, more, more, more, more, more of everything except cricket.

I have no problems with glitterati, dancing girls, noodle straps and parties. I hate that all of that, wrapped up in a ‘more, more, more’ culture has taken precedence over cricket.

And in a culture that focuses on the cash-till and one in which more is actually less, are we surprised that a few players were led astray by exhibiting the seemingly ceaseless greed of their masters?

I am not at all surprised.

Today, the IPL represents a painfully tortuous mangling of everything I have loved about this game. Like Prem Panicker, I fell a sense of loss, a bereavement: “The abiding sense of loss that is a direct consequence of being deprived of something dear to me.”

Some people I talk to say I have a choice. They say I can switch off from cricket for the two-month period that the IPL is on and read books or watch old DVDs of movies I need to watch.

No.

To those that say “If you do not like it, do not watch it,” I say ‘I just can not do that’ because the IPL uses resources that belong to me. And to you. And you. And you too.

I would switch off if it was the now-defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL). The ICL used its own resources: grounds, players, coaches, administrative machinery.

Not the IPL. As a fan of Indian cricket, I have a vested interest in the IPL because it uses resources that ‘belong to me’. The BCCI is entrusted with the task of managing these resources through a license to operate, provided to it by the ICC. The resources are the grounds, the nurseries, the administrators, the practice pitches, the groundsmen, the district competitions, the representative leagues, the Ranji Trophy, the Irani Trophy, the umpires and the players that have all been bred by the game you and I so love.

So, to those that say “If you do not like it, do not watch it,” I say, “If you want me to switch off from the IPL and if the IPL is truly a market-led initiative, then get your own resources.”

Until then, I need to know the answer to this simple question: Whose resource is it anyway?

If it is mine, then I have a say. Please hear it: Clean up the darned beast. And now.

— Mohan (@mohank)

Indian Sports Minister fumes at 6UP

There are several good things that the IPL is doing for cricket. And there are several things that it is doing that are plainly irritating. For example, we do not have sixes anymore! These are now known as DLFers or “DLF maximums”. We do not have a brilliant fielding that affects a run out or a brilliant catch anymore. We have a “Citi moment of success”!

While it is irritating to see a sixer being referred to as a DLFer, what the IPL is certainly doing, is associating the sponsors brand much more closely and intimately with the product itself! Sponsors like DLF, Vodofone, Citi, Fly Kingfisher, Hero Honda and Sony SetMax appear to be reaping the benefits of their association with cricket through the IPL.

A more recent entrant to the field is one that has raised the ire of the Indian sports ministry!

The Indian sports minister MS Gill has rapped the IPL on the knuckles for its official sanction of an SMS text-messaging product during IPL games. This product is also promoted actively by the same commentators that promote the DLFers and “Citi moment of success” through their commentary! The competition, called 6UP is one in which users can win by predicting either the run-sequence in an over or the number of runs per over. The sports minister has taken offense to this — as this is akin to betting and gambling which are banned in India — and has requested the BCCI to ban this competition.

6UP is an SMS mobile game. Fans can send their predictions as to how many runs will be scored on each ball of an over, before the start of every over at Rs 5 per SMS. The company that runs offers 6UP is “IPLAYUP Interactive Entertainment”, a UK-based mobile business generation company. They have tied up with Vodafone to offer the product. George Tomeski, co-founder and managing partner of IPLAYUP Interactive Entertainment, has indicated that every day a few fans can make a few lakhs of rupees.

The business model is simple: Out of every Rs 5 SMS sent during a live game, a minimum of 50 per cent of the total pool (number of people who send the SMS multiplied by Rs 5) goes to the person who sends the message, while the remaining part goes to telecom company (Vodafone), governmental tax and Australian ex-captain Steve Waugh’s charity – Steve Waugh Foundation. So there is a charity angle to it too!

Cute!

There are some loosely justifiable claims, perhaps, for this to be classified as “gambling” or “betting”! However, while he is at it, is the Honourable Sports Minister also going to make efforts to ban illegal betting and gambling on cricket? Or perhaps he can allow the IPL to legalise gambling and betting in cricket in India and actually earn the Government money that can be used to either line pockets or be pumped into other sports that are worse off in India?

Furthermore, these proclamations from the Sports Minister would actually hold water if the ministry demonstrated tangible evidence of adding value to sports in the country!

If the Sports Minister had concentrated on the real issues — betting and the potential for ‘match fixing’ — and stopped there, that may have won him his day in court. However, instead of doing there, he went on to take a swipe at cricket and spilled all his sour grapes, thereby, bringing to question his real motives!

He went on to say, “I see the commercial use of cricket for business gains that is going on. I am concerned at knowledgeable comments from serious followers of cricket about the latest venture of encouraging viewers to make ball-by-ball predictions of runs scored for economic gain in the shape of cash prizes. This is viewed as ‘openly encouraging gambling and betting’, which official bodies do not resort to, even in countries where betting is legal; all this ‘to make money and enlarge their TV viewership base'”.

Let us de-construct this comment.

There is really nothing inherently wrong with the commercialisation of cricket. Nor is there anything wrong with either making money or enlarging TV viewership! Indeed, that is one sure way for hockey to become popular again in India! What is of relevance is (a) the actual act of “betting” and (b) match fixing.

Perhaps the sports minister was better off focusing his attention just on (a) and (b) above rather than spill his sour grapes!

Although betting and gambling is considered illegal in India, there is a horse racing and gaming industry in India. This is officially sanctioned! Moreover, we do have state sanctioned lotteries. Millions of rupees are routinely lost, mainly by India’s poor, who wish to invest in these statistically remote make-it-rich-quick lottery schemes in these state run lotteries. The sports minister did not comment on these officially sanctioned gambling mechanisms in India. While it is not necessary for him to have done so, the argument can be mounted that, given the existence of these schemes, could the country not allow another scheme — especially if the Government can use the funds thus generated to improve the plight of sports funding in other neglected sports?

Fundamentally however, what needs to be investigated here is whether the course of a match can be altered through this product. Possible questions that need to be asked are

(a) Can a single user, as a result of an investment of 5 Rupees (roughly 10 cents American) alter the course of a game through her bet?

I would have thought that that would be close to impossible.

(b) Can this lead to “match fixing”?

Theoretically this is possible. It is possible for an “investor” to pay off two powerful hitting batsmen to take 3 singles each in an over to deliver a sequence of “111111” or, say, deliver a sequence “000000” in an over. The “investor” can then place a bet on that specific sequence and hope that (a) no one else has bet on that specific sequence so that the “rigged investment” pays off, (b) a large number of bettors have placed bets on an alternative sequence — so that the “rigged investment” is worth it.

These, and other similar questions, are more pertinent rather than the commercialisation of cricket in India. The sport is banking on its popularity and is finding new ways of delivering value to the brands that support it. Nothing wrong with those principles. What is important is an assessment of whether the game itself is letting itself open to be manipulated by means and instruments other than sporting skill.

— Mohan